One problem I've had in China is getting stuff to read.
Books in English are available but, even in large bookshops in large
cities, the selection is miniscule. In Xi-An I checked the English
section of a book store that covered five floors of a shopping mall.
There were less than thirty books in total and all of them were the
kind of boring classics that get included in school curriculums.* If
I wanted to read Oliver Twist or Pride and Prejudice or The Importance
of Being Ernest again, I'd have brought them with me. In desperation
for something to pass the time on a forthcoming twenty hour train ride
I ended up buying The Complete Father Brown stories.**
I can of course get downloads of just about anything.
So, I've decided to go against my principles and give in and buy an
e-reader. I have a lot of downloaded books on my computer but it's
just too damned inconvenient to sit at my desk to read them. I know
this is against everything I've ever said but I've just committed to
another year in China and, if I can't get real books, at least an
ereader will let me sit somewhere comfortable to read electronic ones.
Not to mention giving me something to pass the time while I am on the
So this afternoon a Chinese friend is coming with me to explain my
requirements to the store owners and then to bargain the price down to
With this in mind I've been looking at e-readers on the internet to
get an idea for just what my requirements are. One thing in particular
has struck me about the product descriptions on the official sites for
Kindle and Nook and whatever. The quoted battery life always seems
The first one that showed up on my search was the Kindle. It quoted a
battery life of a month. The Nook quoted an even more impressive two
months. These seemed unlikely to me. Closer examination reveals that
these figures are both based on thirty minutes use a day. Surely this
is an absurd way to describe it. Doing that the Kindle could claim two
months based on fifteen minutes a day or more than a year based on two
minutes a day or an infinite battery life based on never using it at
Independent comparison sites all seem to quote the much more sensible
"hours of continuous use" figure.
What do I need? Well I don't need to know how long it will last at
half an hour a day as I read far, far more than that now, just sitting
at my computer screen. All I need is to know that on a full charge it
will last for a day. Then I can recharge it while I sleep. That's it.
I also don't need it to have bells and whistles and other features. I
just want to be able to copy a book from my computer to the e-reader ,
then go sit in the park or in the bar or on the sofa or on the toilet
(* No, Word's helpful red underlining notwithstanding, I don't think
it should be curricula - I speak English, not Latin.
** The Complete Father Brown stories vary from rather dull and
predictable***** to "I-want-to-throw-it-in-the-fire" religious
preachiness. I don't understand why it has such a good reputation.
*** Unless, of course, it's a Chinese squat toilet where it's all I
can do to maintain balance and keep my trousers clean without adding
the complication of trying to read.
**** In China, in everywhere except supermarkets, prices always start
at more than double the price they will actually take. As an
Englishman I am genetically incapable of the bargaining required to
get the prices that the Chinese locals pay. A Chinese friend is an
essential adjunct to any shopping experience.
*****The atheist did it. You can bet the farm on it.)
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